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Teaching WH Questions to ESL Students

Updated on March 21, 2017
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WH Questions in the ESL Classroom

WH Questions
WH Questions | Source

WH Questions

Questions that are formulated with WH words are intended to provide personal information about oneself or other people. They can also be used to ask about the description of objects or situations. They are called WH questions because they all start with WH or include the letters WH in their structure. These words (WH) are usually placed at the start of a question.

Throughout this Hub, I´m going to include only those WH questions that ask for the personal information of another person.

The approach to teach this type of questions may vary. Some teachers prefer to introduce the grammar point through a listening activity or through a reading. Usually these types of questions are familiar to students who have already seen them throughout their exposure to the English literature in a given lesson.

In the following paragraphs, I´m going to describe the way in which I presented the questions to ESL students in an introductory lesson. I decided to teach WH questions by presenting a set of personal information questions about a famous person on the board, I wrote these questions on the board;

Common WH Questions

Who, Which, Who, Whose
What, What time, What kind
How, How many,

How much, How long

How old, How come,

How often, How far

Who is this person?

Who is he?

What does he do?

Where does he live? Alternatively, where is he from?

Which is his profession?

When is his birthday?

How does he become successful?

Presentation Stage- it can also be used as a warm-up for any ESL Class

I told the students to write theses set of questions on their notebook, after which, I told some clues about a famous person that went like this;

This person is one of the most successful people on the internet and he founded his own business through the establishment of a social network website. Since the students are not very proficient in English, I had to give them part of the clues in Spanish. One student was able to guess who the person was, while the rest ignored the fact, so I had to give them more clues that went like this; He is the founder of Facebook.

At this point, almost everyone exclaimed that they knew the answer, so I told them to write the information on the notebooks just next to the question that they had written earlier.

He is the founder of Facebook

Who is he?
He is Mark Suckenberg.
What does he do?
He is the CEO of Facebook.
Where does he live?
He lives in the United States.
Which is his profession?
He is the president of Facebook.
When is his birthday?
His birthday is on May 14, 1984.
How did he become successful?
He founded Facebook.

Do you correct your students during an English activity?

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Checking grammar

During the development of this task, I was walking through the classroom, checking for grammar correctness, which is something that I always do at this stage of the lesson. Students most often have grammar errors at the beginning of the question placing capital letters or ending the question with a question mark.

I also check for sentence meaning and structure. Since these types of questions ask about personal information, I always tell them to write compete sentences and to add pertinent information, as this improves their writing ability.

Practice stage

The practice stage could be a Reading or using their own personal information or a classmate’s information, so the student can become acquainted with the personal details of another person and then be asked to write a report about that person using WH information questions.

To give them more opportunities to practice, they can match one set of sentences to another set of sentences that describe a person´s lifestyle or professional development. They can also be given a true or false activity about person´s daily activities. All of this intended to give them plenty of practice with the grammar point learned.

In the production stage, they can be asked to write the biography of their favorite actor, actor, athlete, politician, astronaut, etc. during this stage, they not only answer the questions learned throughout the lesson, but other grammar learned in previous lessons.

They can do this activity during the present class or as homework;

© 2017 Jose Juan Gutierrez


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